Omensight’s use of time manipulation mechanics in both its action-packed combat and its murder-mystery narrative yields somewhat mixed results.
Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Platforms: PS4, PC (version reviewed)
Release Date: May 15, 2018
The world of Urralia is on the brink of total destruction, whether its warring nations realize it or not. The Harbinger, the mythical, player-controlled female warrior, is sent to reverse the fate of the land’s imminent end. You are granted the power of reliving the final day of Urralia again and again, Groundhog Day style.
The Harbinger is the eyes, ears, and sword of the land, and its only hope to prevent the apocalypse. Omensight takes you an adventure filled with action-packed combat and a mysterious narrative that slowly unravels as you repeat that ill-fated last day over and over.
The story itself takes you on an up-and-down, time-traveling tale of whodunnit. It all starts with the murder of Vera, the current incarnation of the “Godless-Priestess” that protects Urralia from the darkness. However, after her death, the evil god serpent Voden has returned to devour the world.
Using the ancient powers of the Tree of Life, you must relive doomsday over and over to uncover the truth behind Vera’s murder, investigate a diverse cast of animal characters, and fight both friend and foe to prevent the apocalypse. One playthrough of the day you might break the sassy mouse-like bard Ratika out from jail, while another you might accompany the canine army commander Draga to overthrow the bird Emperor Indrik.
The Harbinger cares about saving the world, not the civil war erupting behind the scenes. But you quickly learn the two are heavily intertwined. The cast of zoomorphic characters, important players in the war, is really the cornerstone of Omensight‘s story. They are all tied to the Priestess Vera in some capacity, and act as both suspects and companions in your search for the truth behind her murder.
As you uncover more information about Vera’s murder and how it relates to other characters, you can share it with whomever you please via your mystical Omensight power. This can change the course of the narrative and unlock previously hidden information.
You can accompany different characters each day to slowly reveal new information, and it’s interesting to see how the characters react to these revelations. At times I felt like their attitude and personalities changed a tad too abruptly. One minute they want to fight to the death, the next they are helping you through a secret passageway locked by their racial seal.
I understand that you are playing this mythical, save-the-world hero in the Harbinger, but all of the characters seemed to immediately accept her presence at face value. Presumably, they have never seen her before, since she only comes at the end of days. Yet many of them don’t meaningfully question her identity or motives.
Regardless, the cast of characters is quite colorful, and really carries the meat of the story. The playable Harbinger is a silent protagonist, so information is mostly shared through your talkative companions. They all have their own personalities and matching voice lines that are wonderfully portrayed.
It’s the small things that make these characters shine, like the snappy lines they say when you take too long searching for treasure instead of following them to the next waypoint. Or how they joke about how many levers are in the game (there are a ton of lever operated doors). Each character’s special combat powers (or lack thereof) match their personality as well, and they will berate you for using them unnecessarily.
Omensight‘s writing doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite the fact the story is about preventing a giant serpent god from eating the universe. It was enjoyable to play through the murder mystery without having to dig for too many hidden meanings or hamfisted allegories.
What I found a bit surprising, though, was just how linear the plot ended up being. Yes, you have to play through a couple levels multiple times, but the game lets you skip to the important branching path. And once you reveal certain information to characters, you can’t go back to the beginning before they knew that information.
The plot forces you to advance, which can prevent you from obtaining every single available clue. It’s almost impossible to fail from a narrative aspect. The default difficulty highlights noteworthy text in bright green, making it impossible to miss any important clues.
You are also given a detailed dashboard view of all the information you have uncovered at your hub, the Tree of Life. Compared to other similar games I have played, I felt that Omensight held your hand a little too much in this regard. There are difficulty options to turn off these in-game clues completely, though, which I recommend for players wanting a more puzzle-oriented mystery.
What initially perked my interest about Omensight when I played it at PAX East 2018 was how it blended its time manipulation mechanic with both its narrative and its fast-paced, combo-oriented combat. I haven’t really seen any narrative focused games utilize combat like Omensight.
The game’s fast-paced, Arkham style of fighting focuses on building up combos as you glide between enemies. There’s both light and heavy attacks, dodging, and several special abilities that use of combo points.
The game’s fast-paced, Arkham style of fighting focuses on building up combos as you glide between enemies.
For the most part, the combat feels fluid and fun to play. The animations look great, matching Omensight‘s vibrant art style. You can link up abilities like freezing time, boosting your attack speed, and quickly jump between enemies to build up combo points to then unleash a devastating instant kill.
You never have to actually land these combos to be successful though. Button mashing and dodging seem just as effective. You can gain a stylish combat experience point boost at the end of the day, but it’s in no way required. As the game progresses, you gain new powers and abilities, but the combat difficulty increases accordingly. You will face a greater number of enemies at once, along with tougher enemy types.
I never found the combat mechanics overly difficult except for the occasional tough camera angle. One particular level, which you will find yourself having to play numerous times, had me ripping my hair out due to your inability to effectively see which enemy is attacking.
When there are numerous enemies in a small space, it can also be hard to direct your attacks at specific enemies, which can be problematic when you need to interrupt their actions to prevent failing the level. Not to mention mini-cutscenes that don’t smoothly flow with your combat, often resulting in you taking unnecessary damage before you fully regain control of the Harbinger.
The camera is occasionally problematic during some of Omensight’s platforming segments as well. Most of the times I died in-game was due to sketchy platforming more so than combat difficulty (and occasionally platforming during combat). This leads to an instant death.
Combat deaths were much rarer during my playthrough, partially due to how often the game throws health items at you. After combat sequences, any nearby pots or crates will give you health, restoring you to nearly full health. Again, there are difficulty options to enable more challenging combat, which I found to be much more enjoyable.
Another aspect of the combat I was a bit disappointed about was surrendering enemies. During one combat sequence of my demo of Omensight at PAX East 2018, the sole remaining guard surrendered. I didn’t realize that at the time and accidentally killed the guard.
Talking with Spearhead Games co-founder Malik Boukhira, I was under the impression that sparing that guard would have given me useful information. When that same scene came up again during my playthrough, I found out sparing the guard seemingly provided me no benefit.
This is representative of my overall feelings about Omensight. The game is beautiful, filled with personable characters, and features a wonderful and fitting soundtrack. Its utilization of time altering mechanics in both its fast-paced combat and its murder-mystery narrative is clever and unique.
I couldn’t help but feel like the game was missing more depth. It held my hand a bit more than I would have liked, especially when it came to story progression. I had no problem with the repetitive nature of some segments of the game, but the overall linearity and simplicity of the actual murder mystery left much to be desired.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.